Whitewash was once used a lot. It was a cheap white ‘paint’ you could quickly put on walls and even a grubby wall would quickly look good. But in looking good, it easily got dirty again and could not be cleaned down.
As we continue reading Job we see his growing frustration at what his three friends were saying; their self-righteousness is evident, and their false representation of the ways of God even more so! Job becomes blunt in responding to their worldly wisdom. “As for you, you whitewash with lies; worthless physicians are you all … Will you speak falsely for God and speak deceitfully for him?” (13:4,7). Their speaking falsely was to say that all bad things are caused by God as a punishment for sin.
This is a dangerous half-truth: it is true that God brought destruction on Nineveh as we read in Nahum today, a “city, all full of lies and plunder” (3:1) – a sad failure after the previous generation repented at the preaching of Jonah.
Job is so committed to serving God that he declares, “Though he slay me I will hope in him, yet I will argue my ways to his face. This will be my salvation. That the godless shall not come before him” (verses 15,16). Yet when God finally reveals Himself in conversation and “answered Job out of the whirlwind” (30:1). Job is almost silenced (see verses 3-5). Later God speaks of the friends and says His “anger burns against” them… for you have not spoken of me what is right as my servant Job has” (40:7).
Are we speaking of God and His Son “what is right”? Sadly, many use whitewash in their self-confident portrayal of what God is; what many talk of as faith has no real substance. This took our thoughts to Peter’s first Epistle where he told the believers “if necessary (in the wisdom of God) you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith – more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire – may be found to result in praise and glory and honour at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1:6,7).
May our faith become genuine. May we not deceive ourselves by using whitewash in our thinking and ways of talking.